Archived entries for

Back To School

As the nights draw in and we enter the last week of August, in her latest series on Book Themes for The Substantive, Joanne Sheppard writes on school in literature.

September’s nearly upon us, bringing falling leaves, shorter days and  Keats’ ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness’ – but more importantly, endless ‘Back To School’ promotions in the shops and, despite being 36, an almost primeval urge to buy smart new black leather lace-ups and a new pencil case. I can only assume that spending thirteen years of my life at school has left an indelible impression on me, and I don’t think I’m alone: in the world of literature, stories about school are by no means confined to the children’s section of the library. Continue reading…

The Return

The new football season has entered quietly through the back door just seven weeks after the Final of European Championship, a tournament consuming at the time but now a distant memory in the shadow of an Olympics that brought a festival of sport to London as enjoyable as any in modern times. Every four years the Summer Olympics inspires in some-way, but sport of the highest quality played to capacity crowds in great venues with a captivated public took this summer’s Games to another level.

Following the success of Team GB is an unenviable task for the home nations’ national sides, and earlier in the week International teams played their annual August friendly games with the usual weaker squads, which as always provided little excitement. England’s pattern of play looked better in Berne in Italy than at any time so far under Roy Hodgson, with Michael Carrick, incredulously ignored in the summer, at the heart of a five-man midfield who actually looked comfortable in possession at times. Despite Hodgson’s semantics about both Carrick and tactics in his press conferences, maybe he has learnt from his mistakes.

In the first weekend of the English Premier League there was a quick glimpse of the entertainment sport as a spectacle brings as newly promoted Southampton briefly came from behind to take the lead at the Manchester City, cheering watching neutrals across the country tired of hearing City’s manager Roberto Mancini bemoaning the depth of his richly assembled squad after every game. Continue reading…

Olympics: Schools Legacy

Martin Cloake points out the knee-jerk policies and soundbites coming from the London Mayor and Tory Ministers following the success of the London 2012 Olympics highlight a Government back-tracking on funding decisions while perpetuating myths on competition that undermine technique and do little to encourage initial participation and activity.

Apparently, we’re all sports fans now

The Olympics have caught the public’s imagination so much that promoting school sport and getting kids involved in sport has suddenly become a hot issue. This is a good thing, but let’s get rid of some some of the bluster and codswallop. Setting something up on poor foundations is almost as bad as not setting it up at all.

A week ago I worried that by making the point that there needed to be a reversal of the cuts in facilities and time devoted to sport would be condemned as ‘playing politics’. Playing politics is a term used by politicians to dismiss something they don’t want to acknowledge. But now, this Government is falling over itself to make political capital out of the success of Team GB, and to rewrite history in the process. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Hockey (Bronze Medal)

Mark Perryman was at the Men’s Hockey Bronze Medal Match, and reflects on the Olympics as a whole from his experiences and the legacy it will leave behind.

Having written a book entitled ‘Why The Olympics Aren’t Good For Us’ I might have been expected to be crying into my energy drink for the past joyful few weeks for having such a woeful lack of judgement. Not a bit of it.

On Saturday I was at the Men’s Hockey Bronze Medal Match. The organisation of the men’s and women’s hockey tournaments in lots of ways represents exactly what has been wrong with London 2012; not the scale of ambition, the lack of it. Every hockey match of a World Cup style group and knockout stages tournament played in the single stadium. Centralisation suits only those with easy access to the Olympic Park, most games take place during the working day too, further narrowing those who could take part. The stadium? Temporary stands, so no unwanted legacy issues, but the capacity was only 15,000. The alternative I have suggested was to base the hockey in a region well-served with sizeable football stadia. Reconfigure the stands, lay the astroturf over the grass, double, triple or even quadruple the capacity, run all the matches at the evening and weekends. Increase the numbers attending, reduce the ticket prices. A home Games for the many, not just the lucky, like me, few. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Athletics

After the Games had started Alan Fisher managed to get an Athletics ticket for an evening session in which both David Rudisha and Usain Bolt made history on the track at the Olympic Stadium on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympics.

Athletics, Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park

My first trip to the Olympic Park. Good timing for once – Thursday is the sunniest day of the summer. Everyone is so pleasant and helpful, everywhere you go. No customer care exercise this – transport staff as well as gamesmakers and paid security staff went out of their way to assist. I made the fatal mistake of looking confused for a microsecond. If they knew me they would not be unduly concerned as I spend much of the day appearing similarly bewildered, but three staff pounced to make sure all was well.

I could get used to this. Imagine, the lasting recollection of this once-in-three-generations opportunity is that people were nice to each other. TfL and the train companies now have a self-imposed legacy burden: they can make the transport system work under intense pressure but not when fewer people around. Public transport does work if it’s properly resourced. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Hockey

Women’s Hockey Semi-final, GB v Argentina, Riverbank Arena, Olympic Park

The line-up and order of play for the two women’s semi-finals were announced less than 48 hours before they were due to be played, resulting in more than a day’s worth of trying to swap tickets for a number of ticket holders. Eventually, on the day of the matches, tickets for the Netherlands semi-final with New Zealand were exchanged for seats at the Riverbank to see Team GB play Argentina in an evening match for a guaranteed medal and place in the final.

Plenty of anecdotal evidence, a rousing National Anthem in the packed stands and a vibrant display of colours showed more than a few people had successfully swapped tickets for the 8pm match on the blue pitch, played against a backdrop of the sun going down around the open temporary venue in the Olympic Park. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Basketball

Ahead of the Women’s Basketball Gold Medal Match tonight between USA and France, a look back on an evening session at the Olympic Park on Day 7 of The London 2012 Games, when Team GB stole the hearts of the crowd in a thrilling match.

Women’s Basketball, Preliminary Rounds, Basketball Arena, Olympic Park

If an aim of the Olympic Games is to introduce sports to a different audience, it succeeded emphatically with this writer on the first game of a double-header in the evening session on Day 7 of the Games. The women’s British Basketball team produced an excellent performance that captivated the crowd in an all-out-effort to win their first match at an Olympic Games, despite the efforts of organizers who tried to distract spectators with gimmicks from attempts at mass karaoke and needless interventions during tense technical time-outs.

Team GB, up against a physical and more experienced French side who will contest the final against the USA tonight, were every part the equal of their opponents in a pulsating game that was tight throughout and twice had decisive throws scored in the final seconds of first normal time and then extra-time. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Women’s Football Final

Mark Perryman was at the Women’s Football Gold Medal Match between the USA and Japan at Wembley last night and sees his experience as part of a shift in the London 2012 Olympics of British Sporting Culture away from a male dominated landscape.

A World record crowd for a Women’s Football match. Three more Team GB Golds all won by women athletes, one of which was the first ever Women’s boxing Gold. And all this yesterday, Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympics. For Team GB these Games have perhaps represented the single biggest counterpoint to the traditional masculine hegemony that to date has gripped British sporting culture.

And its not just in the ring, on the pitch or round the track. In the BBC TV studio Clare Balding has for most been the stand out presenter; in The Guardian  women sportswriters have enjoyed a prominence that was previously unheard of even in this paper. Marina Hyde, Anna Kessel and Emma John in particular. While prominent feminist columnists Zoe Williams and Suzanne Moore have contributed pieces echoing the approval of what the Games have come to represent.

All this less than a year after the notorious BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award managed to fail to feature a single sportswoman on the shortlist. To do that this December would be simply unthinkable. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Beach Volleyball

Beach Volleyball, Preliminaries (Men and Women), Horse Guards Parade 

Away from the Olympic Park the idea to build a temporary venue at Horse Guards Parade for the Beach Volleyball has been inspired. The walk to the venue gives visitors the chance to see Buckingham Palace from the Mall and then when inside, from the open roofed stands, the London Eye, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are all visible from a seat in the Mall end.  As well as hosting a sport, Beach Volleyball at the 2012 Olympics is showcasing London, and adding value to ticket holders. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There–Synchronised Swimming

After his first London 2012 Olympic experience at the Dressage, Tom Bodell got his first visit to the Olympic Park to see Synchronised Swimming at the Aquatic Centre.

Going to the Olympic Games in my home country was always going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity, at least that was what I kept telling myself when the first round of ballots returned tickets for the equestrian dressage and synchronised swimming. Continue reading…

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